Bonnie S. Calhoun
the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian
Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for
Christian fiction is changing, and the reading world is taking notice. Predictable characters that live in Sunday school classes, attend every church potluck, and close each chapter with a long, psalm of David prayer are largely a thing of the past. Francine Rivers, the queen of Christian fiction, shattered then expanded readers’ expectations with Redeeming Love, igniting a hunger for real-life authenticity. Later, Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye added strength to the ripple Francine Rivers created when they launched their Left Behind Series. Because of these great authors, and others like them, the Christian fiction market continues to expand.
Clash of the Titles, a literary Website where authors compete and readers judge, is thrilled with this shift! We believe in the power of quality Christian fiction and are determined to cooperate with God as He continues to expand His reach. We do this by connecting authors with new readers and introducing readers to new genres.
Each month we host two “clashes,” each one running for two weeks. During week one, two anonymous excerpts are posted on our site. Readers are invited to vote for their favorite. Voting remains open Monday through Thursday. On Friday the competing authors are revealed. The following week, we introduce readers to both authors through fun, interactive cyber chats and announce winners on the final Friday.
We love giving readers a taste of new genres. “Our excerpts focus on an aspect of the story that might showcase the book in a whole new way,” Lisa Lickel, Advertising Manager and author of Meander Scar says. “You might not be interested in speculative fiction, but if you read a segment of the story that focuses on, say, showcasing emotions, you might be intrigued enough to pick up the book and read it anyway.”
The exposure we offer authors is unparalleled. Each day our staff members blast their social media networks with links, pointing readers back to the competition. We also have a growing blog alliance that reposts our Wednesday articles and highlights our current conquerors. In addition, our competitors saturate their social media networks, bringing even more viewers to our site, all for the cost of a book giveaway. As you can see, our dollar-to-reach margin is extremely high.
“Every Clash of the Titles staff member is an author who believes in marketing on a dime,” Senior Editor and author of Wounded Spirits, April Gardner, says. “So we go out of our way to make each contestant’s experience go as far as possible on that marketing highway. Currently, our winners gain exposure on twenty-two different blogs, in addition to their weeks on Clash of the Titles. That’s a lot for the price of one giveaway and the time it takes to answer a few interview questions.”
Our newest staff member, Gail Pallotta, author of Love Turns the Tide, could not agree more. She originally joined Clash as a competitor. “The rewards of being on Clash of the Titles far exceeded my expectations,” Gail says. “The contest gave my book great exposure. Finding out that the readers liked my work gave me validation. Being a part of Clash of the Titles is a win-win situation. It’s an honor to be chosen. Getting a win is, as they say, icing on the cake.”
But our site is much more than a contest. To us, it’s an ever-expanding family. Gail speaks from experience when she says, “I’ve met so many new friends. I never imagined it was possible to connect with people over the Internet the way I have with the members of Clash of the Titles and their friends. Finding more like-minded Christian people who are also writers makes the Internet a smaller, friendlier world.”
Assistant Editor Michelle Massaro loves to nurture, support, and encourage Clash of the Titles authors. “Authors who haven’t participated yet are missing out on being part of a wonderful family of encouragers,” she says. “We love our authors and strive to lift them up.”
Our participating authors have enjoyed the positive feedback they’ve received from readers, as well. Many say it helps them as they write and edit future stories. According to Shannon Taylor Vannatter, author of the White Rose Trilogy, competing on Clash of the Titles motivated her to pay closer attention to her opening hook.
Many of our competitions have been extremely close. This is largely because of our selection process. For each clash, only the best submissions are chosen to compete. This ensures quality reading for our viewers and keeps the competition fierce. Many of our winners won by mere percentage points!
But perhaps what makes our contests most unique is that we’re not a popularity contest. Everyone knows the games played in this industry. If your publisher pays enough, your book will get the best shelf placement, which ensures a larger percentage of sales. If you have enough high-profile friends, you’ll easily gain exposure on heavily trafficked sites. For many other contests, if you master writing techniques, you’ll likely place well. But none of those things ensure a great book. In fact, I’m sure we can all swap stories of that best seller we splurged to buy but never finished.
Clash of the Titles helps readers avoid spending money on duds by giving them a taste of the novel before they buy. The lack of popularity games ensures each author has equal footing and an equal chance of winning the clash and gaining that next sale.
“I hate popularity contests,” Michelle says. “We want excerpts to win because readers connected with the scene, not because a flood of friends rallied to help them. Clash of the Titles tests an author’s mettle—does the writing stack up?” That’s why we keep our authors anonymous until voting closes.
This anonymity extends to the staff selection process as well. Submissions for a particular category are sent blind to the host, and the authors aren’t revealed until after the selection has been made. If a staff member happens to recognize an excerpt, they remove themselves from the selection process and ask another staff member to choose the top two. We continually solicit submissions, but a solicitation does not affect the selection process. Meaning, we may send e-mails to authors asking for submissions, but once sent, all excerpts are thrown blind into the ring.
Clash of the Titles is relatively new. We launched in October and had a surge of readers. Each day, our success continues to grow.
According to Amanda Flower, Scheduling Manager and author of Maid of Murder, our fans make our site what it is. “No matter who our competing authors are, we could never succeed without dedicated readers. It’s amazing to see how our readership has grown since we began!”
We have been humbled by the success we’ve experienced so far, largely thanks to the continual buzz our competitors and readers generate around the Web. It is our desire that each clash will point back to the One “who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle” (Ps. 144:1 NKJV).
“Everything we do is only for His glory—this is a motto held firmly by every COTT staff member. For some reason, He has chosen to bless us, so we’ll thank Him.”
To quote an author who participated in our best conversion scene category, “Today is the day of salvation for someone known only to God. Only He knows the circumstances He’ll use. Christian authors may be the vehicle. How exciting is that?”
There are numerous ways you can
join the Clash of the Titles family:
Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, columnist, and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of fifteen years and their thirteen-year-old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World, the Christian Pulse, Reflections in Hindsight and Samie Sisters and is the marketing manager for the literary Website Clash of the Titles. In 2009 she placed first in the HACWN writing contest and in 2010 she finaled in the CWG Operation First Novel contest, placed second in the Dixie Kane, and fourth in the Golden Pen. She’s written for numerous other publications and Websites, including The Breakthrough Intercessor, Afictionado, Bloom, and Granola Bar Devotions. You can find out more about her and her writing at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com, and you can learn more about the fun literary site Clash of the Titles, where authors compete and readers judge, at http://www.clashofthetitles.com.